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 By: Marco Uschmann – 26.01.2005

[Vienna] Interreligious Hour of Commemoration for the Flood Victims

„Time to act and help“

Vienna, March 19th, 2005 (epd Ö) In an interreligious hour of commemoration the political leaders as well as representatives of the churches and accepted religious groups remembered the tsunami victims on Wednesday afternoon, March 19th, in the Hofburg of Vienna. Among the 500 guests relatives of the victims resided next to representatives of the NGOs as well. 20 pupils and teachers of a Viennese school, who are struck by the death of a teacher, followed up on the invitation from President Heinz Fischer and Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel as well.

Representatives of the Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions remembered the dead in prayers and intercessions. Chief Rabbi Chaim Eisenberg quoted a scene from Genesis, in which the sea and the water were portrayed as a life-giving and live-taking power at them same time. On the occasion of the catastrophe in South-East Asia, many a person would ask the question, how a gracious and allmighty God could allow something like this, but now was not the time to think about the fairness of the Eternal One, it was rather the „time to act“ and to help, the chief rabbi reminded. The President of the Islamic Religious Community in Austria, Anas Schakfeh, emphasised, that no hour of commemoration and no prayer could undo the catastrophe. Still, the „solidly united family“ in Austria assembled here could be seen as a sign for ideology and helpfulness to come to the fore.

„Words alone cannot ease the pain“

Chancellor Schüssel emphasised the sympathy and compassion for the relatives of the flood victims. „Words alone cannot ease the sorrow and the pain. But it helps if we mourn together.“ It was a sign of hope, that all people helped together - this attested to true humanity, says Schüssel. He announced, that the European Union wanted to build a memorial for the victims. The Chancellor concluded by saying, „The eternal hope has the final say.“

„This catastrophe has hurt the people in body and soul and shaken whole continents,“ says President Fischer. In the light of the huge number of victims, a single person could not comprehend the size. On one single day the world had also gone down together with the sundown, says Fischer. He expressed his deep sympathy and communicated the compassion of the Austrian population to all affected countries.

„To live and suffer together“

The hour of commemoration was initiated by the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Austria (ÖRKÖ). Its chairwoman, Mother Superior Christine Gleixner, said, that the churches would like to express their „living and suffering together“ with this ceremony. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn appealed for a life, peacefully side-by-side. „May political, religious and economical conflicts not let the solidarity crumble.“ The great helpfulness made a „family of humanity“ noticeable. „I don‘t know, if there really exists a conclusive answer to the question ‚Why the suffering?‘ Falling silent, the mute compassion, is often the only adequate attitude in the light of great suffering“, says the cardinal.

Extensive help of the world community

The Evangelical-Lutheran Bishop Herwig Sturm initiated the intercessions at the commemoration. „Paradises turned into climes of destruction in just a few minutes,“ said Sturm. „An unimaginable chaos, thousands of wounded and dead people, destruction of the life resources of millions of people, and especially the immense suffering of those who lost relatives,“ were left. Many nations were affected by the catastrophe. Admittedly, the help of the world community was this extensive as well. Sturm says, „The prayers are so diverse – from the deepest misery to the last resort.“

The intercessions were spoken by ambassadors of churches represented in the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Austria, commenced in each case by a beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount read by the former Methodist Superintendent Helmut Nausner; the Russian-Orthodox Bishop Hilarion, the Serbian-Orthodox Archpriest Drago Govedarica, the Bulgarian-Orthodox Bishop‘s Vicar Iwan Petkin, the Old-Catholic Bishop Bernhard Heinz, the Syriac-Orthodox Chori Emanuel Aydin, Reverend Sally Wells of the Church of England, the Romanian-Orthodox Bishop‘s Vicar Nicolae Dura, Church Executive Thomas Hennefeld of the Reformed Church, and P. Avedis Sahakyan of the Armenian Apostolic Church were speaking. The Coptic-Orthodox Bishop Anba Gabriel recited the Lord‘s Prayer and the Greek-Orthodox Metropolitan Michael Staikos completed the succession of Christian representatives with the Kyrie Eleison.

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